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God Shatters a Wall

On my previous blog I described how we had hit the health care wall. It looked like, with my rheumatoid arthritis, our inability to find affordable health care might knock my husband right out of what was looking like two job offers for senior pastoral positions, perhaps ending his professional ministry. Two weeks later we are breathless at what God has done. We went to Iron Man 2 Sunday night but I drifted in and out of all the action thinking, What is happening in our lives right now is far more exciting. It's God. And it's real. Now for Part 2 of our story…

On my previous blog I described how we had hit the health care wall. It looked like, with my rheumatoid arthritis, our inability to find affordable health care might knock my husband right out of what was looking like two job offers for senior pastoral positions, perhaps ending his professional ministry. Two weeks later we are breathless at what God has done. We went to Iron Man 2 Sunday night but I drifted in and out of all the action thinking, What is happening in our lives right now is far more exciting. It's God. And it's real. Now for Part 2 of our story…

 

On Friday, April 30th, we awaited a phone call from John, the elder in charge of finances at a church in Columbia, South Carolina. After six months of correspondence, interviews and a ten day visit things were moving forward. While we were drawn to ministry at another church as well our hearts were increasingly inclined to the South Carolina church. John had been working our insurance problem all week and as he worked we prayed. He is a much sought after financial consultant for both individuals and Christian ministries so we felt confident he would find a solution. When he reached us on Friday his voice sounded flat. "I have hit the wall," he told us. "I don’t know what else to do."

Fresh out of seminary we had moved to Costa Rica with a view to Jack eventually training pastors in Latin America. My diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis had demolished a dream. I couldn’t believe this was happening again. My eyes welled up as we listened to John.

The price tag for our insurance was going to be well over $30,000 a year and the church could not afford it. If we backed it out of our salary it would leave half as much as our previous salary to live on. We could feel the disappointment in John’s voice mirroring our own. When someone with that measure of expertise says we've hit the wall it speaks to the true dimensions of the wall and the gravity of our insurance situation. Maybe Wal Mart needs more greeters. 

Afterwards Jack wrote to our close friends and prayer partners: "We have hit an obstacle that only God can overcome. We know that is not a bad place to be but we do not know how to move forward. So we want to tell you the issue and ask you to pray for God to show us the way."

I emailed a friend, "Actually I am in good spirits, looking to Jesus. Here’s the thing: if we slid nicely from our severance into a good fit with a church, prayers are answered and God gets glory, but not nearly as much as if he delivers us from what now looks like such a precarious situation. I want him to write a meaningful, astonishing story through our lives. That means mighty deliverance from real danger. We indeed feel the danger. So we are cast upon God our rock. A solid place to be."

We desire deliverance. God desires transformation: The relief of holiness. Rich relationships. Fruitful lives. As we walk with him he always accomplishes the greater deliverance of transformation. The deliverance from circumstances is more dicey. I can’t imagine the complexity God navigates as he protects us from some things, allows others, so that in the process we truly grow and change without losing heart.

Independently six people had suggested that we think about raising support to cover our health insurance. We considered it as a possibility and mentioned it to John. He didn’t say "Go for it" right then but that the elders would meet on Wed, May 5th, to decide what to do .On Sunday they announced to the church that our need for insurance was looking like more than the church could meet. John wrote that "there was sadness, confusion and much prayer." The elders announced they would meet on Wednesday and asked the people to pray.

The church prayed. We prayed. Our friends prayed.

In the middle of that same night a friend of ours woke up and could not get Jack off his mind. He is not a close friend, had not been on our update list, was completely unaware of our need and described himself with a wink as "not one of Jack’s better parishioners"attending church occasionally. Now, over a year after Jack’s resignation he was prompted to call and encourage Jack, telling him how much he had appreciated his ministry. (Thankfully he waited until after 8:00 am.)

Jack told him that he really needed encouragement because of the insurance roadblock. Over the next couple of days our friend made contact with a few people suggesting that they find 25-30 people to commit $1000 a year to cover our health insurance costs. Another friend, Chip, had thought of the same idea.

This began to take on a life of its own. Two days later we called John on the Wed afternoon before the SC elders met telling him what was happening and how many people were buzzing about this, verbally committing almost half of the needed financial support. We thought that at the meeting the elders might green light the fund raising and see what God might do. But no!

On Wednesday night after the meeting, Rick, the board chairman in SC, called. He told us the elders believed God was in this thing and offered Jack the job as their Senior Pastor. We delightedly accepted what we called a "provisional contract" on the pastorate, provided that God raised up our support. Here in Texas our friend Chip began to organize the effort in earnest. There in South Carolina John worked out a way for the church to set up an IRS approved tax deductible account.

On Mothers’ Day Sunday morning, in a bold step of faith, the elders in SC announced to the church: "We have a new pastor!" Five hours later Chip emailed the appeal letter. Within four days people committed to cover $30+000 premiums for five years. Back in 1980 when we raised support to go to Costa Rica it took months to raise much less money to cover our entire salary.

For the year of our transition to a new ministry Jack and I had prayed Jehoshaphat’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 20 "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you [Lord]." I didn't even remember the rest of the passage, but Jack dug it up this week. In answer God told Jehoshaphat, "You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf…."

Literally, we stood by as God orchestrated this through other people who decided they were going to take this challenge on themselves. We simply watched God’s bold stroke of deliverance unfold in ways that are so characteristically his own:

  • shattering a humanly insurmaountable wall
  • in the nick of time
  • with consequences that roll out in uniquely powerful ways into many different lives

Here are a few examples and we are hearing so many more:

God, our Father, has lifted our souls showing he had not forgotten us, that people deeply cared about us, and that they valued our ministry. In over a year of looking doubts had crept into our hearts that were washed away.

God has blessed, used, and encouraged a man who was not deeply involved in church and had no idea of our need.

God has energized people who responded from ten different churches spread over several states.

And from what we hear about the Mother’s Day service, God has energized our new church! The elders in South Carolina report that since the announcement that Jack will be the new pastor they have not seen this much excitement in a long time. Is there anything more exciting than to see God at work demolishing a wall that seems insurmountable?

Our hearts echo the praises of Psalm 107: Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever…Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things…He shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.

 

 

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Lael writes and speaks about faith and culture and how God renews our vision and desire for Him and his Kingdom. She earned a master's degree (MAT) in the history of ideas from the University of Texas at Dallas, and has taught Western culture and apologetics at secular and Christian schools and colleges. Her long-term experience with rheumatoid arthritis and being a pastor’s wife has deepened her desire to minister to the whole person—mind, heart, soul and spirit. Lael has co-hosted a talk radio program, The Things That Matter Most, on secular stations in Houston and Dallas about what we believe and why we believe it with guests as diverse as Dr. Deepak Chopra, atheist Sam Harris and VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer. (Programs are archived on the website.) Lael has authored four books, including a March 2011 soft paper edition of A Faith and Culture Devotional (now titled Faith and Culture: A Guide to a Culture Shaped by Faith), Godsight, and Worldproofing Your Kids. Lael’s writing has also been featured in Focus on the Family and World magazines, and she has appeared on many national radio and television programs. Lael and her husband, Jack, now make their home in South Carolina.

18 Comments

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    Sue Bohlin

    Woo-hoooo Lael!!

    Lael! This is thrilling, delightful, and faith-building! SO excited for you!!! :::doin' the happy dance:::

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      Lael Arrington

      What a reminder…

      …that when people pray…and God wants something done…it will be done. Reminds me of Gamaliel (sort of) in Acts 5:38-39 …if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!"

      (I wonder what ever happened to Gammaliel?)

      Thanks, sweet friend!

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    Laura Gallier

    Thanks so much for sharing

    Thanks so much for sharing your story! We are rejoicing with you guys. What a mighty God we serve – and what mighty acts of service you and Jack have sown into many lives, including mine.

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    Dianne Miller

    what an encouragement

    what an encouragement to stand and see the salvation of the Lord when you don't know what to do…He is good and faithful and your story has encouraged me to remember this truth…

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    Sue Edwards

    Glory to God

    I've followed your heath care saga with a sad heart but am rejoicing with you as I see the Body of Christ minister to you and your family in this beautiful way–and be part of God's work through the ministry of your husband and family. God is amazing and I'm rejoicing with you.

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    Sandi Banks

    Jehoshaphat, Spurgeon and Lael…

    Lael, in awe WITH you! Am back now to TX & FB following family emergency, so am experiencing your amazing story all at once, the "before & after" of your prayerful needs and God's marvelous lovingkindness & provision. For years, 2 Chron 20 has held a special place in my Treasure chest, now, in YOUR life: the "…eyes on Thee," and "…battle is the Lord's," PLUS God gave them all the spoils–stay tuned! 🙂

    The following Spurgeon, lengthy but beautiful & timely, shows the very morning you wrote your 'rest of the story' (May 20), God had you both on the same page–blessings to you and Jack as you go:

    CHARLES SPURGEON: MAY 20 "Marvellous lovingkindness." — Psalms 17:7

    When we give our hearts with our alms, we give well, but we must often plead to a failure in this respect. Not so our Master and our Lord. His favours are always performed with the love of his heart. He does not send to us the cold meat and the broken pieces from the table of his luxury, but he dips our morsel in his own dish, and seasons our provisions with the spices of his fragrant affections. When he puts the golden tokens of his grace into our palms, he accompanies the gift with such a warm pressure of our hand, that the manner of his giving is as precious as the boon itself. He will come into our houses upon his errands of kindness, and he will not act as some austere visitors do in the poor man's cottage, but he sits by our side, not despising our poverty, nor blaming our weakness. Beloved, with what smiles does he speak! What golden sentences drop from his gracious lips! What embraces of affection does he bestow upon us! If he had but given us farthings, the way of his giving would have gilded them; but as it is, the costly alms are set in a golden basket by his pleasant carriage. It is impossible to doubt the sincerity of his charity, for there is a bleeding heart stamped upon the face of all his benefactions. He giveth liberally and upbraideth not. Not one hint that we are burdensome to him; not one cold look for his poor pensioners; but he rejoices in his mercy, and presses us to his bosom while he is pouring out his life for us. There is a fragrance in his spikenard which nothing but his heart could produce; there is a sweetness in his honey-comb which could not be in it unless the very essence of his soul's affection had been mingled with it. Oh! the rare communion which such singular heartiness effecteth! May we continually taste and know the blessedness of it!

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    Pam Mitchell

    What a Good God we serve!

    Lael thanks for sharing this story. I have been getting bits and pieces of it, but hearing it from your heart has been wonderful! As you said "He is Glorified in the telling"!!! I am so excited that my dear friends here in Columbia will be blessed by your ministry soon!

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    Megan S

    yes!

    Lael, I had tears in my eyes the first I heard about all this. Even as my heart aches as you move so far away, I am filled with so much joy for all that God has done. We love you both so much.

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    Rebecca Barlow Jordan

    God is So Faithful

    Lael, I am so thrilled to hear of how God moved to answer this need in your life. We've been at that "wall" in the past in my husband's ministry. In our case, years ago, he resigned, in obedience to God's, "It's time." Only we had no place to go. Seven weeks to the day that our funds ran out, Larry walked in to a new church and position. What happened was only something God could do. He is so very, very, faithful. And I am so glad you shared your journey and God's remarkable answer to prayer. I've been anxious to hear ever since first hearing of your prayer request. May God bless you to overflowing, enlarge your coasts, keep His hand on you, and keep evil far, far from you. (By the way, our daughter did her graduate work in Columbia, S.C. It's beautiful there!)

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    Gwynne Johnson

    An affirmation of His faithfulness and your ministry

    Not only was this an affirmation of His faithfulness but a strong demonstration of the esteem and love in the hearts of those you have faithfully shephered.  Rejoicing with you.

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    Dena Dyer

    Wow! So Encouraging!

    We are going through a transition time and your story is so encouraging right now. Thanks for sharing in such detail and with such an open heart.

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    Lael Arrington

    Thank you so much for your encouraging comments!

    I count it a privilege to celebrate together.  This has been such a delightful few days. So much power and joy in God's redemptive work.

    Not only that, but we had such a fond farewell to Lost party. I blogged about the finale and the series at http://www.culturedevo.com if you're interested.

    Not only that, but we received a full asking price contract on our house tonight. My heart can hardly hold all the joy. Such a long journey. Such a surprising, up to the gates finish. Such a great God.

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    Sue Bohlin

    Your heart can hardly hold all the joy???

    Sounds like an answer to my prayer!

    >>I ask the Lord to provide a solution to this unworkable mess that is so delicious that you wake up in the middle of the night just to chuckle and giggle and laugh once again at His goodness and creativity.<<

    I just LOVE when the Lord shows off! :::happy hug:::

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    Lael Arrington

    “Delicious answer to prayer”

    And part of what makes me chuckle is friends like you who pray like you and write like you.

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    Virginia LeTourneau

    Wow!

    I have the goosebumps and feel encouraged by what the Lord has done as you and Jack submitted to His plans and purposes!

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    Ron Lewis

    Blessings

    What an incredible story. Thank you so much for sharing how God continues to work in the lives of His people. And thanks for the book. Your words of encouragement are greatly appreciated. You are a true blessing.

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